DRRI is part the nationwide, federally mandated and funded, network of disability rights organizations known as the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System. The P&A System provides legal representation and advocacy to people with disabilities on disability related issues. There are 57 such designated agencies in the United States – one in each state, the District of Columbia, and each territory.

The first P&A program was created by Congress in the mid-1970’s in response to deplorable conditions in institutions for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Over the years the P&A System’s programs have expanded, allowing it to protect and advocate for the rights of all people with disabilities on a broad range of legal issues.

In creating the P&A System, Congress gave it unique authorities and responsibilities including the power to investigate reports of abuse and neglect of persons with disabilities.  P&As are also authorized to pursue appropriate legal remedies on behalf of persons with disabilities including enforcement of their civil rights.